This week’s Social Media Matters column (originally published March 25, 2011)

Social Media MattersTwitter an omen for American Idol contestants?:

This season on American Idol, each contestant has a Twitter account.

That’s a good thing! It allows them to interact with fans and hear how they’re doing. The accounts also allow contestants to easily send messages to their fans and even chat with a few of them when time permits.

It may also be a bad thing because the number of Twitter followers each contestant has this season has so far been a pretty accurate omen (good or bad) on their chances of winning. The first contestant to get booted, Ashthon Jones, had the lowest number of Twitter followers of the Top 13 that week, while last week’s bottom three had the three lowest totals of Twitter followers.

It’s pretty obvious – at least at this early stage of the season – to see that Twitter popularity is playing a role in predicting who won’t be going far in the competition at this point: Haley Reinhart, Naima Adedapo and Jacob Lusk – all of whom lag far behind the other eight contestants in Twitter followers.

Only time will tell if the trend holds up, but so far Twitter has been a pretty good prognosticator of who hasn’t got a hope of winning season 10 of American Idol.

Kids lying to get on Facebook:

According to a news report by Matt Johnston published March 22 in Australia’s Herald Sun newspaper, children under the age of 13 are lying in droves in order to get on Facebook. (The minimum age to join Facebook is 13.)

In fact, the problem of underage youngsters joining the world’s most popular social networking site is so prevalent that Facebook is banning 20,000 of them per day for being too young, the report states.

According to Mozelle Thompson, Facebook’s chief privacy adviser, about seven million children who have lied about their age are blocked each year. “It’s something that happens on a regular basis,” Mr. Thompson was quoted as saying in the article.

Twitter turned five years old this week:

On Monday, microblogging website Twitter turned five years old. The site, which allows users to post status updates and share links in 140 characters or less, continues to take the world by storm, even being called “the new CNN” earlier this week by PC Magazine writer Lance Ulanoff.

As Twitter enters its sixth year, the most popular Twitter users are: 1. Lady Gaga (@ladygaga) (8,913,728 followers); 2. Justin Bieber (@justinbieber) (8,273,168); 3. Britney Spears (@britneyspears) (7,183,736); 4. Barack Obama (@BarackObama) (7,081,236); 5. Kim Kardashian (@KimKardashian) (6,823,773); 6. Ashton Kutcher (@aplusk) (6,468,530); 7. Katy Perry (@katyperry) (6,297,473); 8. Ellen DeGeneres (@TheEllenShow) (6,200,700); 9. Taylor Swift (@taylorswift13) (5,667,384); and finally, in tenth spot, Oprah Winfrey (@Oprah) (5,380,011).

Charging up the rear and gaining fast is troubled celebrity Charlie Sheen who only joined Twitter a few weeks ago.

As of Monday, he was in 34th place at 3,019,094 followers, just behind The New York Times and just ahead of rapper Snoop Dogg. Sheen will likely be in the Top 10 in the next few weeks, knocking off Oprah. A sad sign.

Meanwhile, retired CNN talk show host Larry King clings on to his place in the Top 100 Twitter users in 100th place with 1,794,301 followers.

Now that he’s retired, though, and is less visible, he will likely drop off the Top 100 sooner rather than later.

Other notable placements include celebrity chef Jamie Oliver in 328th place with 973,266 followers, the NHL in 533rd place with 544,101 followers, singer Enrique Iglesias in 799th place with 352,818 followers and, finally, your friend and mine Jesus Christ in 995th place with 282,168 followers.

Suffice it to say that he has more followers in “real life” than he does on Twitter.

All statistics are courtesy of Twitaholic.com, a website that keeps a running daily tally of the most popular Twitter users, and are current as of Monday, March 21 at 11 p.m. Numbers and rankings may have changed since then.

Allure of Facebook too strong, even for inmates:

Prison inmates in South Carolina may be getting 30 days tacked on to their sentences if they don’t stop smuggling cell phones into jail and updating their Facebook statuses.

WFMY television news in Greensboro, North Carolina, reported this week that South Carolina state representative Wendell Gilliard has proposed a bill to add the extra month to sentences if a prisoner is caught updating his or her Facebook status from jail. Gilliard states victim safety as one of the main reasons for the measure.

Across the border in North Carolina, it is against the law for prisoners to use computers and the Internet.

In 2010, 634 cell phones and smart phones were confiscated by prison officials.

An inmate caught with such a device faces up to a maximum of 60 days of solitary confinement or lost privileges.

A pretty stiff penalty for complaining that it’s Monday – as many Facebook users tend to do!

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